Baltimore Evening Sun (30 November 1912): 6.


Zerocaput, n, one who venerates Harry, a nilhead.


This week’s platitude prize, a miniature American flag mounted upon a goose feather, suitable for wearing in the hat, is awarded to the Hon. A. C. Binswanger, LL. D., for the following:

Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war.

The committee makes honorable mention of the Hon. Jacobus Hook, K.T, for the following:

The streets are supposed to be used by moving vehicles.

And of the Rev. Dr. Polemus H. Swift for the following:

War is bad enough.

And of the Rev. Dr. Edward B. Bagby for the following:

A wife is not a toy.

And of the Rev. Dr. O. C. S. Wallace for the following:

Indecent fashions in dress tend to destroy modesty.

Next week’s prize will be an elegantly bound copy of a pamphlet proving that dogs and cats have souls, issued by the Maryland Anti-Vivisect ton Society.

If Young Bill has any gratitude in him, he will take a large, lucrative ad in the Hot Towel’s forthcoming Tallow Edition. All the Prominent Baltimoreans are getting ready to disgorge.

All honor to the Police Board for its frank and accurate statement of the public hostility to the antiquated Blue Laws of 1723! The board might have done as previous boards have done: that is to say, it might have made a hypocritical attempt at complete enforcement, earned the praise of the professional moralists, and left things as before. But it does nothing of the kind. Instead, it puts the matter up to the people, openly acknowledging that the present laws are unenforceable.

Such honesty is so rare in public office that it deserves more than formal commendation. The average public officer is usually only too eager to yield to public hypocrisy, and to do the bidding of its self-chosen exponents and rhetoricians. But here we have three men with courage enough to tell the truth as they see it. They put the blame where it belongs: upon legislative cowardice and dishonesty. Nothing may come of their appeal to the people. The yowlers and tear-squeezers and other such fakes may win again. But at any rate. the Police Commissioners have proved that they have sense.

Young Bill, his sworn receipts in his pocket, was given a truly furious greasing by the Towel this morning. First he was rolled to vaseline, and then he was propped up against a fence and bombarded with gobs of graphite, oleomargarine and goose grease, the while the Towel’s great witch hazel pumps, each of 10,000 H. P., deluged him with the Lord Harry’s favorite cosmetic, and the dear old Sunpaper, suddenly gone oleomanical, helped!

Scornful remark by the estimable New York Evening Post:

The sort of man who stokes his buccal cavity with a knife. * * *

Well, why the scorn? Why shouldn’t a man eat with his knife if it pleases him? Is there anything essentially barbarous or immoral or indecent about it? Of course not. All that one may say against it is that it is not fashionable--which means that it is not approved by a majority of snobs and fools. And yet it has been done by hundreds of worthy and honorable men--Galileo, Christopher Columbus, Pushkin, Dvorak, Charley Mitchell, Andrew Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, P. T. Barnum and Ludwig van Beethoven among them. What is more, it is done by millions of perfectly respectable men today, including clergymen and City Councilmen.

All the same, the act carries with it a sort of dishonor, a subtle but genuine social penalty. Which brings us to the enormous force of mere etiquette in the affairs of men. We commonly assume that our fundamental rules of morality are powerful, but as a matter of fact they are weak compared to our fundamental rules of fashion. A man may be a liar, a thief and a roue and yet die honored and envied, but let him once take to wearing his undershirt outside instead of inside his vest and he will be ruined forthwith. Generally speaking, it is more dangerous to make a noise eating soup than to make a noise robbing a church. And the habit of scratching the calf of the leg at receptions is ten times as fatal as the habit of stuffing the ballot box.

But the really interesting thing about these petty moralities is not that they are so potent but that they are so mysterious. No one has ever explained them. Our notions of modesty, for example, are wholly unaccounted for by psychology. Superficial observers often argue that we refrain from certain acts and habits because we fear to cause disgust, but they do not tell us why most of them are disgusting. Why should it horrify us to see a civilized woman expose her knees? Her elbows give us no shock, and neither does the bold unveiling of her neck, shoulders and back. A Turkish woman bares her bosom, but would blush to death if a stranger ever saw her face.

Then there is the matter of women smoking. It seems perfectly proper to a Russian and even to most Austrians and to many Germans and Englishmen, but the American man still regards it as subtly indecent. Why? He couldn’t make it clear to you if he explained 40 days and 40 nights. Is smoking filthy? Then why is it proper for men to smoke while women are about, and even to blow smoke into their faces? Is it a drug habit, and hence degrading? Then why isn’t it degrading for a respectable woman to drink four or five cups of tea, and so take aboard two or three grains of the powerful alkaloid called caffeine, and sink into a mellow and boozy coma?

No; I offer no answer to these questions. Like most questions deeply affecting the motives and prejudices of human beings, they have no answers. It is the chief characteristic of man, indeed, that he is inexplicable. He spends most of his time trying to explain himself, to account for and justify his acts, but he seldom succeeds. All he commonly manages to do to is tell you what you already know: that he likes this or that, and dislikes some other thing. The trouble with him is, of course, that he usually leaves out his instincts, and thus tries to picure himself as a wholly rational being. But even his instincts are fluent! Let his environment change, and they change with it. A puzzling critter!